A professor was conducting research on how older folks dealt with negativity in their life by interviewing them in old age homes across the country. So he would go around old age homes asking how the inmates dealt with all the negativity around them. She had this hypothesis that the older folks are unhappier than the younger ones because their health is degenerating. Coupled with loneliness they could be an unhappier lot compared to those who were younger. But she was finding that the opposite was true in the research.

She discovered why when she was interviewing a pair of sisters living in an old age home. When asked how they dealt with the negativity around with sickness and death all around them in the old age home. They simply replied in unison “ Oh we dont have time for worrying about that”, this was a surprising answer and the professor was puzzled by the answer. The retirees in an old age home have no jobs, housekeeping tasks, or family responsibilities and had nothing but time at their hands. Yet they claimed to not have time. After probing further the professor learned that sisters were not talking about the amount of time available on any day but for the rest of their lives. From their perspective allocating much of their time to unpleasant events did not make sense as they had little time remaining in their lives. Due to this, they chose to focus their mind away from the negative news around them. In addition, she further learned that older people are better at revisiting their earlier memories, and most of the time they prefer to relive the happy ones. Due to this, they tend to be able to frame themselves to feel more positive and hence happier. The younger ones are usually busy and focus on things that they have not achieved. Due to this, they are in a more negative frame of mind hence they are more likely to be unhappy.

Point to Ponder

What about the rest of us? Must we wait for old age to realize this?
The lesson in this story is that we can choose to make ourselves happy by focussing on positive things in life. Thus our happiness is simply a function of what we focus upon.

PS: This is a story written by Avinash M B based on a much shorter anecdote in the book Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini.

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